From a certain perspective, virtual reality and the Internet of Things are two of the most important technologies to arise in the past decade or more. Taken individually, each technology represents a real sea change. VR has the potential to truly change the world in some surprising ways, while the Internet of Things already has transformed the way we live our lives. It is the confluence of these two developments, though, that offers the most promise and opportunity of all.
At this stage of the game, it is clear to nearly everyone in tech that both VR and IoT are far from a flash in the pan. They have both captured the public imagination as well as proved their worth in the industrial sector, and they are both rapidly becoming enmeshed in modern society.
Therefore, it is not surprising that the corporate world has already made enormous investments into the development of new applications of both virtual reality and the Internet of Things. In the first half of 2016 alone, an estimated $1.1 billion was invested in AR and VR. In the IoT space, a single company, Samsung, matched that by investing $1.2 billion. The IoT industry as a whole is expected to grow into the trillions within the next few years.
VR and IoT share a similar basic philosophy and purpose. Both are about the merging of the physical and digital realms, though they approach the task from opposite directions. Where virtual reality is about making the digital world seem real, largely through the use of head-mounted displays, the Internet of Things is about making real-world objects manipulable in the digital.
There is a middle ground there, a point where the two technologies intersect to create something entirely new. Here are a few of our favorite examples.
VR and IoT Combine for the Ultimate in Telepresence
Perhaps the most obvious convergence between virtual reality and the Internet of Things is in the advancement of telepresence. Simply put, telepresence refers to technology that allows one to be virtually present at a distant location. Just as a telephone allows one to hear at a distance, a telepresence device allows one to “be” at a distance.
Early development in telepresence resulted in videoconferencing, which today is in widespread use from company boardrooms to student dorm rooms. Science has shown that humans communicate best face-to-face. More recent studies on videoconferencing have shown that the more closely technology can simulate a face-to-face interaction, the more participants are able to focus, engage, and retain information.
By combining virtual reality and the Internet of Things, two innovators have created what could be the next step how we communicate with each other over long distances. The two products, Empathy VR and the OdenVR Telepresence Robot pair a virtual reality head-mounted display with a highly mobile remote-controlled robot. The ability to both look and move freely within a real-world space creates a very strong illusion of actually being present.
The applications for both business and personal use are numerous. By affording nearly all the benefits of face-to-face interaction while eliminating the time and financial commitments of travel, VR/IoT telepresence makes everything from long-distance sales meetings to visits with family overseas immensely more accessible.
IoT Rail Management with VR
One development company, Eye Create Worlds, is exploring a very unique application for virtual reality and the Internet of Things. In a proof of concept video, Eye Create Worlds sketches out a process by which a network of IoT sensors placed throughout a city could be used by an operator in the virtual world to monitor and optimize the performance of a rail transportation network.
In the video, a user is able to track a wide variety of data coming from cameras and sensors by essentially conceptualizing it as a model train set. By looking down at the train, or virtually shrinking down to stand on the track, the user gains an intuitive overview of any issues or problems that might arise. Using simple gestures and commands, the user can access data from real-world security cameras and sensors, which is mapped directly into the simulation.
The appeal of this technology should be immediately apparent to any architect or engineer. By leveraging VR and IoT, decision makers can make any system manageable and understandable, no matter how complex. Until the advent of VR, engineers had to settle for, at best, 3D models presented on a 2D screen. By creating a virtual simulation from real-world data, these personnel can use their intuitive abilities to grasp the nuances of a situation in a way that was simply impossible until now.
Although only a proof of concept, the Eye Create Worlds video is part of the larger trend towards Smart Cities. Municipal agencies see the potential in IoT and are making huge investments in technologies that can make life easier and better for their citizens. It may not be long at all before this kind of rail management becomes a reality.
How Virtual Reality and the Internet of Things Will Save Lives
One of the most dramatic confluences of virtual reality and the Internet of Things has been the technologies’ used in the healthcare field. Robotic-assisted surgery is already in use across the world using innovations like the da Vinci Surgical System. Using a tiny camera and precision surgical tools, the da Vinci allows a surgeon to perform minimally invasive surgery from a control console that looks like something out of Star Trek. By inserting the camera and tools through a comparatively small opening in the body, the surgeon can gain a full view of the operating area without subjecting the patient to the trauma of a large incision.
The other advantage of IoT surgical technology like the da Vinci the way it allows for practice, training, and even a “dry run”. Although current VR development does not allow for a true-to-life simulation of manual surgery, it can provide a near-perfect simulation of a da Vinci surgery. At least one study has already been performed to evaluate the training efficiency of just such a simulation.
It’s not difficult to imagine a time in the future when these VR surgeries could control real da Vinci systems or other surgical devices, allowing surgeons to operate on distant patients without leaving their offices. The barrier here lies more in the reliability of Internet connections, and perhaps a little fear, than in the limitations of the VR and IoT technologies already used in healthcare.
The Place of AppReal-VR in Leveraging VR and IoT
AppReal-VR, with its years of experience in both virtual reality and the Internet of Things, is a VR development company perfectly positioned to help clients embrace the opportunities afforded by these new technologies.
Under the leadership of CEO Yariv Levski, who is an 18-year veteran of the operational and business sides of IT, AppReal-VR has thrived in the industry. Today, the company has brought countless visions to life, working with clients around the world in a wide range of industries and markets.
AppReal-VR is expert in the creation of industry solutions, social applications, mobile games, and more, and is an invaluable ally in navigating the complex world of emerging technologies.